Mariah Blake

Mariah Blake

Senior Reporter

Mariah Blake is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. She has also written for The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, The Nation, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and The Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. E-mail her at mblake [at] motherjones [dot] com or follow her on Twitter.

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Will Voters Punish Congressional Republicans for the Shutdown?

| Wed Oct. 16, 2013 6:00 PM EDT

It's no secret that the government shutdown has been catastrophic for Republicans. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released earlier this week found that just 24 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, the lowest rate in the poll's two-decade-plus history. But how will GOP's plummeting popularity affect its prospects at the ballot box? Another poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP), which was released Wednesday, offers some clues.

PPP polled voters in six key states, which will likely determine control of the Senate after the 2014 election. It found that the majority opposed the shutdown and wanted to punish the politicians responsible. As a results, Republicans are trailing in five of the six races—even though most respondents voted for Republican Mitt Romney in last year's presidential election.

Among data geeks, PPP methods are somewhat controversial. The New Republic's Nate Cohn recently took the firm to task, saying it has "withheld controversial elements of its methodology, to the extent it even has one, and treated its data inconsistently." Nevertheless, even critics admit its projections have been pretty much on target.

The new PPP report cites several races where the shutdown has apparently given Democratic candidates a leg up:

-In Michigan's open seat race Democrat Gary Peters leads Republican Terri Lynn Land 43/36. Voters are opposed to the shutdown by a 65/27 margin, and when voters are informed that Peters stood against the shutdown in the House his lead expands to 50/36.

-It's a similar story in Iowa’s open seat race- there Democrat Bruce Braley leads a generic Republican opponent 45/41. Voters are against the shutdown 64/27, and when voters are informed of Braley’s opposition his lead goes up to 7 points at 46/39.

-In Louisiana [Democrat] Mary Landrieu leads Republican challenger Bill Cassidy 48/41 for reelection. Voters oppose the shutdown 60/30, and 47% say they’re less likely to vote for Cassidy for the Senate next year because he supported it compared to only 32% who are more likely to. 

PPP's findings also suggest that the shutdown could play a role in the closely watched race for the seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). The two top Republican contenders, Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, favored the shutdown like most of their colleagues in the House Republican caucus. As a result, PPP found, 47 percent of the state's voters were less likely to support Broun or Gingrey in a general election. This is good news for the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn. After being informed that her most likely opponents were House Republicans who supported the shutdown, 48 percent of those polled said they would back Nunn, versus 42 percent for whichever Republican survives the primaries.

The sinking poll numbers haven't deterred Nunn's would-be challengers. In an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday, Gingrey insisted House Republicans are "not posturing" when they say they're willing to breach the debt ceiling to win concessions from Democrats. He added that he saw the standoff as an "opportunity for a 'Braveheart' moment" and that he and his colleagues would not necessarily back down "for fear of losing the House and not gaining control of the Senate."

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You Too Can Learn How to Escape Obama's FEMA Camps for Just $37

| Mon Oct. 14, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

Call it debt ceiling profiteering. With the federal government just days away from defaulting on trillions of dollars in borrowings, survivalists are bracing for chaos. And the $500-million-dollar-a-year "preparedness" industry is flooding the blogosphere with ads for ammunition, gold bullion, antibiotics, freeze-dried food, sling shots, prefab bunkers, and countless other products to help you brave the impending mayhem.

But one company has been particularly aggressive about capitalizing on preppers' paranoia, particularly those preppers who see Barack Obama as the first horseman of the Apocalypse. Last week, an anonymous email solicitation went out to readers of the conservative news site, GOPUSA.gov. It warned:

There are three hidden signs that Obama
is about to throw you into a FEMA camp.
They're on his secret agenda.

But once YOU know these three signs...
youre already one step ahead.
You're in control.

You can beat them at their own game.

Click here to check them out now,
before its too late.

The link leads to a slick marketing website-cum-infomercial for a video called the Patriot Survival Plan, which is also being promoted on popular conservative sites, such as World Net Daily. The infomercial claims that America is about to experience "a crisis unlike any other in history, a catastrophe that will overshadow, Katrina, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, the Great Depression, even the Civil War." What's more, this "financial Hiroshima" is "barreling down on us like a freight train in just 10 months or less…Unless you take some very specific steps it's virtually guaranteed that you will be left penniless, hungry, and fighting desperately for your life."

What steps are those? The infomercial doesn't say.

Instead, it delves into a rant about the Federal Reserve, claiming it's part of plot by greedy bankers to "rig the entire U.S. economy in their favor" by luring the country into a gargantuan debt it can never repay. Worse, this "Massive Ponzi scheme" is about to "come crashing down." When it does, neighbors will fight each other to the death over a single can of tuna.

But never fear. There's a "simple yet stunningly powerful method" that will have intruders "running away from your home like scared little girls." And you can learn it from "the comfort of your own home," all for a mere $37. Among the skills you will glean through the Patriot Survival Plan video:

  • How to turn 200 bucks into a large supply of 37 essential food items that will keep you and your family week nourished throughout the crisis…
  • How to make sure Urban Warfare never touches your family.
  • How to keep the military out of your home even if they have an evacuation order (this will save your children decades of nightmares)…
  • [How to] walk calmly through dangerus riots—completely unarmed…This will come in handy should you need to get out and get valuable supplies.

The website also peddles several handy books, including "Pro Prepper's Dummy-Proof Checklist" and "39 Ways Duct Tape Can Save Your Life." (Yes, really.)

For more tips on surviving Armageddon, visit PatriotSurvivalPlan.com's sister sites: PatriotStockpile.com, where you can pick up a food-hoarding bible for $22; and TruthAboutPrivacy.com, which offers a guide for dodging government surveillance. (The alternative being "living the rest of your life under the surveillance of a drone made just for you, ordered to track you and kill you if you make the wrong move.") You better act fast, because time is running out!

WATCH: Another Prominent Conservative Connects Syria Conflict to Armageddon

| Fri Sep. 27, 2013 2:00 PM EDT

Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a top executive at the influential Family Research Council, has joined the chorus of religious conservatives touting the Syrian conflict as a prelude to Armageddon. On Wednesday, Boykin appeared on Prophetic Perspectives on Current Events, a talk show hosted by dominionist preacher Rick Joyner (see the video above). The pair discussed a passage in Isaiah 17, which predicts Damascus will be reduced to "a ruinous heap."

"One of the scriptures that has never been fulfilled and has to be fulfilled before this age can end is that Damascus will be destroyed, never inhabited again," Joyner explained. "What in the world could cause a city to be destroyed and never inhabited again?" Boykin didn't hesitate. "One of the ways Damascus could be destroyed, never to be re-occupied, would be through a chemical attack," he replied. " So let's just take a scenario: The Free Syrian Army takes Damascus and Bashar al-Assad is in a desperate mode now….What would be his final act? Well it may very well be to unload all his chemical weapons on the population center there in Damascus. Destroy the city and destroy it in a way that he just kills maybe millions of people. But the byproduct is that he has residue there that could make Damascus uninhabitable and for a very long time."

"We Made Them Suck Their Own Blood off the Floor:" Assad's Other War Crimes

| Thu Sep. 12, 2013 11:38 AM EDT
A sketch of a detainee being hung from the ceiling by his wrists and beaten, a common torture technique in Syria.

For the last month, Washington has been tying itself in knots over how to respond to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons. The Syrian people, meanwhile, are being subjected to ever-graver atrocities, most having nothing to do with poison gas. A new report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria illuminates the increasingly brutal tactics that the country's government—and, to a lesser degree, rebels—are deploying against civilians, from electrocution and rape to enlisting medical professionals to help torture hospitalized detainees. Significantly, while the report focuses on the commission's findings from mid-May to mid-July and doesn't cover the August chemical-weapons attack near Damascus, it concludes that both sides are guilty of war crimes and also accuses pro-government forces of crimes against humanity.

Whether the international community will do anything to curb the escalating brutality is an open question, though Thursday's meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov may provide some answers. If the two sides can come together and craft an agreement to secure Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile, perhaps the international community can also find common ground on other measures to protect civilians—and hold Syria's war criminals to account.

Below is a roundup of atrocities laid out in the UN report.

Fri Apr. 25, 2014 1:42 PM EDT